The Films I've Watched This Year #31

Film Surprisingly bijou list below considering there wasn't haven't been spending hours watching athletes and achievements (however tempting that was after seeing the Nanjing Youth Olympics opening ceremony. Instead this week was filled with going on Tuesday night with friends, watching the television version of The Girl Who Played With Fire and two documentary series, Andrew Graham Dixon's Art of China and David Olusoga's The World's War: Forgotten Soldiers of Empire which as the deleted scenes which turned up during the Commonwealth Remembrance coverage indicated shows that even in relation to the so-called Great War, our general understanding of who fought who over what and who died is astonishingly simplistic.  For years I used to watch a documentary first thing in the morning.  Not sure why I stopped.  Begun again now.  Oh and Doctor Who.

Short Term 12
The Kings of Summer
Chronique d'un été
À bout portant
Cheerful Weather for the Wedding
Banlieue 13

You will have noticed the appearance of French in this week's list.  In the middle of the muddle of trying to decided what to watch but wanting to have some continuity to what I'm watching, I realised that since I actually do quite like watching French film and films set in France, I should watch some French film and films set in France.  So I've decided to work through all of the French cinema available on Netflix and Amazon Prime and assigned one of my Lovefilm by-post disc allocations to a massive unruly list of everything available as a kind of serendipity engine as well as adding in the material I haven't seen made by other countries but set there.  It's entirely unmetered and I've avoided reviews.  I want to be surprised and lose myself in another nation's cinema and this seems like the way to do it.

A bout portant, English title Point Blank, is a tight actioner (only 80 mins) about a trainee nurse whose wife is kidnapped by hoodlums and finds himself on the run for a crime he didn't commit.  The crime itself is a major shock so I won't spoil it because this is well worth tracking down.  As the set-up suggests director Fred Cavaye has in mind to offer Hitchcockian twists for the 24 generation and it works, partly because lead actor Gilles Lellouche has the perfect face for romantic comedy but compellingly finds himself dealing with murderous gangsters and police officers.  It's a bit like casting Adam Sandler in a Tony Scott actioner.  Expect this to gain an extra half hour when it's remade in Hollywood which it undoubtedly will be.  Starring Mark Wahlberg.

Throughout District 13, I was distracted by just how much it seemed to be a French remake of a US film featuring Paul Walker and Vin Diesel sans cars and sure enough the film has actually been remade in the US with Paul Walker, the final film he was working before the tragedy.  Having seen neither Escape from New York or Ong Bak, I can't comment in its similarity to those.  It's a very functional film in narrative terms, essentially three long set pieces but it's quite aware of this and happy to simply offer some spectacular parkour stunts amid some one dimensional social commentary, the majority of it created without the aid of CGI or wires which in retrospect makes it something of a successor to the old silent slapstick, to Buster Keaton or Harold Lloyd, but with more frequent cutting.

The advertising for Short Term 12 is a bit misleading.  My impression, admittedly based on the poster and Kermode's review was of an unremittingly grim investigation into the US care system full of heartbreak, pain and not much in the way of levity, one of those Ken Loach or Mike Leigh pieces which essentially reminds us that our society remains broken.  It is full of heartbreak and pain, but it's also incredibly warm, funny, has depthful characters you can really become attached to and utterly lacks the slightly (slightly?) judgmental tone which can marr my appreciation of both Loach and Leigh, presumably because writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton has worked in this very system and has an insider's appreciation that isn't just a enunciation of class.

Cheerful Weather for the Wedding is an enunciation of class and a great deal more.  Felicity Jones is back in period as a young woman who realises she's about to marry the wrong man but is held back from what she really desires by social convention and the needs of her family.  Based on a novel published by the Woolfs in 1932 and the only really prominent work by its author Julia Strachey, as filmed it's essentially a Poirot mystery without a body and the ensuring Belgian detective (an impression underscored by an appearance by Agatha herself, Fenella Woolgar) (it's a Unicorn and the Wasp reunion).  There are secrets and conspiracies, hearts are broken but no one dies.  There's a notable use of colour timing changing the hues of the image to denote the flashback sequences which I've not seen before too.

The Kings of Summer was released last year when I was in the midst of my hernia horror and so I decided to save it for the following Summer, planning to watch it on a nice warm day.  It rained.  But it didn't matter because I'd entire misjudged the content which is essentially Stand By Me without a body and not The Inbetweeners US (which is a function of me sometimes ignoring everything about a film bar the poster).  It rains in the film too, the dreamlike montage sequences seem to flashforward and suggest how these boys who build a house and emancipate will memorialise this summer, the details which will offer a nostalgic glow when they chained to a desk in an office or teaching kids the ages they were, themselves ready to go out and manufacture similar memories.

One of my guilty pleasures is the Teenagers React To series in which The Fine Bros introduce a piece of 80s or 90s technology or ephemera to people born in the following decade and film the results.  Some of the kids offer quite wise assessments usually in the order of knowing that when the Gameboy was first released it was cutting edge and their predecessors would have found them just as exciting as tablet computers are now. Inevitably:

Rewatching Scream this week, which is now eighteen years old, for the first time in over ten of them, through this lense, is like glimpsing an alien world.  Randy works in a video shop in a pre-dvd era and Tatum has to visit to bring a film for her and Sidney to watch.  The sheriff questions the fact that Billy Loomis has a cell phone (which must make teens now guffaw) and it takes them a day to request the records.  Plus these teenagers wouldn't phone in their threats so no scary voice.  The whole thing would be conducted over snapchat or some such and victims could simply block them.  Sidney does her homework on a DOS based programme which looks like some early version of WordPerfect.  Oh and nothing about the film would work in a world with a proliferation of CCTV cameras.  Other than that it hasn't dated at all.

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